Breathing is something we kind of take for granted. As we go about our day, rushing around from here to there, we know that our body will subconsciously take one breath after another for us. But most of these breaths are shallow in nature, to keep us alive – rarely do we really take loooonng deep breaths.
And when we get stressed, it’s even worse. One of the first things that goes is our breath. As crazy as it sounds…we stop breathing! Not completely of course, but our breath suddenly gets shorter, rapid and more shallow. As if we totally forget how to breath all of a sudden, like we have to learn it all over again.
Deep breathing, the kind that comes from the belly, actually is something that needs to be learned. It doesn’t come naturally for most of us. The great thing is that it’s something we can control and regulate and can also have a tremendous positive effect on our mental and physical well being.
The 4-7-8 (Relaxing Breath) Exercise
Holistic health expert, Dr. Andrew Weil uses and recommends it as one of his favorite breathing techniques. This exercise can be used to energize you upon awakening, or any other time of day, as it clears the mind. It can also be used for relaxation, anxiety, and a breathing technique for stress relief and stress related health problems such as digestive disorders.
Due to the ability to reduce stress, regular use of deep breathing has also been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure. It’s also a great tool to use for cravings. Many people find it useful right before bed, as it can help you fall asleep fast. 4-7-8 breathing is a super simple concept and can be done at anytime, anywhere, although at first it’s easiest while comfortably seated with a straight back.
- Gently rest the tip of your tongue against the tissue at the back of your front teeth for the entire breath cycle. Exhale completely through your mouth, blowing out
- Now close your mouth and inhale through your nose while mentally counting to four
- Hold your breath for a mental count of seven
- Exhale completely through your mouth, blowing out for a mental count of eight
- This is one breath, repeat the same cycle three more times for a total of four breath cycles
Here is how it’s done…
That’s all there is to it! When first trying this, if you find it difficult to hold for a count of seven, or exhale for a full count of eight, it’s not so important, the main thing is to try to keep a similar ratio of the 4-7-8, so just speed the cycle up for now and with practice you’ll be able to slow it back down.
Try to do it at least twice a day, it’s a subtle breath technique that gains power over time with repetition, and can’t be done too often. For the first month, don’t do more than the four breath cycle at a time, but after that you can try increasing to an eight breath cycle.
I encourage you to try this and see how it affects your stress and anxiety levels, absolutely everyone can benefit from it.
Do you practice or have you tried the 4-7-8 breathing exercise? Share below!